“From a very young age, I’ve been fascinated with design. My favourite thing to do on family vacations is to observe the different signs and billboards in each different country. It was interesting as a child and even up to now, to see how the colours and symbols differ in every country. To a certain extent, I feel that you can really get to know a place through the local commercials and advertisements. One of the first things I do the moment I get to a hotel room is to turn on the TV – I still do it now! It’s interesting to observe how and what the local people would respond to through these TV advertisements. That made me think of design communication as a possible career option.
I’m presently the Creative Director for Matter Prints where I oversee all the creative output for the brand, so everything from product development to communication design. And I also have PYAR, a jewellery line that I started a little over 3 years ago.
The biggest fear I had starting my own brand would be a fear that people won’t respond well to it. Then it would be how to keep that initial excitement going. And I guess, my biggest fear is failure. And although it’s taken a while for me to understand the business side of it and learning to manage all the different aspects that are not creative, I’m grateful that it’s still growing. The most challenging thing about the brand is also the production aspects – to find the right manufacturer to interpret your designs and getting prototypes right. When I find someone that’s good, I’m loyal to them – I find that it’s important to spend enough time with that one maker. It comes down to feeling the fear but doing it anyway.
Everyone needs love in their life and to be reminded they are loved. When I started PYAR (which means “beloved” in Sanskrit), I wanted to express the idea of love in its many forms. And although there are many heart pendants out there, I find that they are all too “sweet”. I wanted to create pieces for women who are a little different and understands herself. And someone who embraces love in all its evolving forms. The heart pendant that is part of my core collection symbolizes this sense of duality that exists in all of us – that sense of light and dark. I also wanted to represent the changing seasons and movement.
Simplicity is an important element of my design process. Other than the form, the theme, colours, function and visualising the woman or man I’m speaking to is also integral. My source of inspiration is really mixed but I always look at heritage, Asian-inspired pieces or tribal jewellery. Even though it could be from anywhere and everywhere, it always translates to simplified and easy pieces to wear. Effortless pieces that are meant to compliment your wardrobe and that you can pair with other pieces of jewellery. Ultimately, it’s the form in its simplified way.
Next in the pipeline for PYAR is a Zodiac charm and bangle set. Horoscopes are one of the first things you want to find out about a friend or when you’re on a date – you know like, oh what’s your sign? So, the concept behind every PYAR piece is about love and loving, or understanding the ever-evolving self and embracing all our traits. It’s fun and I try not to take it too seriously.
Music and films also play a big part for me – the most memorable and defining accessory from music or cinema would be the hoop earrings on Sade, and Madonna in her Sex book. And although I don’t watch Hindi movies, I remember sitting through them with my late father when I was younger. There’s this really old classic one called Kabhi Kabhie – if you ask any person who is into Hindi movies, they would know it. And with almost all Hindi stories, there was a pair of star-crossed lovers. She had already been married off to another man and so they can’t be together. But there was this one song in the movie and the way the female lead wore her jewellery in that scene was really memorable for me.
I define success as small achievements – it could be the feeling I would get when I’ve eaten well for the day or being a part of a team that’s created something valuable together. I was in India recently with the Matter team, and we interviewed one of our artisan partners who runs his textile production business with his daughter and son – quite an amazing character in his evening years who was dressed every single day in a suit. We asked him what gives you meaning, and he said that when you win a trophy, that trophy doesn’t have any value, but it’s the meaning you give to it that’s valuable. So, for me, success is when you’ve achieved something that’s worth something to you – it doesn’t have to be one major thing but a series of small accomplishments.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt is the power of positive thinking. You get what you think about big time and how people treat you is actually how you’ve allowed them to treat you.
THE FUTURE IS SLOW
The creative industry is moving towards a direction where people are more conscious and questioning the origin of the products we are consuming. In terms of creation, the industry is more process-driven. There is an appreciation for craft and artisan techniques which take a longer time to produce but the result is a gorgeous imperfectly perfect product full of meaning.
The intangible creative force gets me up in the morning. And my cat Qtip who needs to be fed – he wakes us up! I fix myself a cup of tea in the morning – I like standard Lipton black tea with 1 cube of brown sugar and a splash of milk. And I make sure I drink a glass a water whilst waiting for the kettle to boil. Then I would jump in the shower to start my day.
I wash my face with just warm water in the shower. My mother-in-law gave me the Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser by Liz Earle over Christmas which I haven’t gotten around to trying yet. After drying off, I apply Nivea Crème on my face and then it goes on my legs and elbows, arms and shoulders, and finally my feet. If I don’t have Nivea, I would use Palmer’s Olive Oil Body Lotion.
I used to write a thank you note each morning in a gratitude journal. But I stopped doing that cause I didn’t want to end up with all these notebooks in my old age! I’m trying to lead a clutter-free life! What I do instead now, is make a mental one of 3 things I’m grateful for to kick off my day.
I also drink lots of water for good skin and look in the mirror to say something nice to myself. I learnt about this from my mom and sister. Mirror work can be very confronting at first, as it reveals your most basic fear and your most terrible self-judgments. But if you keep at it, you will see past the judgements and see who you really are.
I take my makeup off with L’oreal Gentle Lip and Eye Makeup Remover, they should really release this in a travel size – the original packaging was so small I didn’t think that it was over 100ml. So I had to decanter this into an unlabelled smaller bottle at the airport on a recent trip even though I had only a little bit of it left. After cleansing my face, I would apply Nivea Crème. Sometimes I would use the Liz Earle Superskin Overnight Mask before bed.
I would also stretch my body out in the evening and recently added planks into the routine to build core strength.
I use Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturiser – Illuminating in 2N1 Natural Radiance on my face – this is the one product I can’t live without – it really gives me the glow. I also make sure this is in my hand carry when I travel, just in case my luggage goes missing! I also like to spritz the Molecular Saviour Mist by Allies of Skin for additional hydration.
The tinted moisturizer is followed by the Bali Body BB Cream with SPF15 in Natural under and around the eyes as a concealer. I’m also really loving Lucas’ Paw Paw Ointment as a balm for my lips. I’ve run out but I also like the FRESH Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment with SPF15 in Rose. Similar to my skincare routine, I like to keep it natural and simple. On a day or night out when I want colour and a more defined look, I would apply the Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Manic Cream on my lips, and line my eyes with the 12hr Contour Eye Pencil from Sephora Collection. I have a couple in mostly black, brown or blue shades, such as 01 Black Lace, 41 Make A Wish, 13 Tiramisu, 14 Cocoa and 23 Summer Cruise. Then I like black or brown mascaras by Maybelline. I also always try and get a bit of natural tan too – but I always make sure I apply some Banana Boat Ultra Protect Sunscreen Lotion with SPF30 prior to sitting out in the sun.
The scents that I’m partial to would be ones that are fresh, floral and citrusy. At the moment I’m using Gucci Flora Eau de Toilette and Eau Ressourçante by Clarins. Another one that I adore but I’ve run out of is Un Jardin Sur Le Toit by Hermès.
I don’t really change up my hairstyle but I remembered getting it done shorter than I was used to and perming it about 8 years ago. I saw this hairstyle in a magazine and it was quite nice when I walked out of the salon, but then it became an uphill battle to maintain it. So yeah never again, the frizz is just not ideal for this heat and humidity. As your hair builds resistance to the same products over time, I change up my shampoo and conditioner all the time. At the moment, I’m loving Clairol Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner. After shampooing, I brush out my hair with a wide tooth comb and apply a bit of Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil to the ends. I would then blow dry closer to the roots and leave the rest to dry on its own. If I want a little bit of curl, I will braid my hair whilst it’s still damp and leave it to dry overnight.
My top 3 golden rules for skin and beauty is to make sure I remove any makeup before going to bed. Although I have to say that I quite like that smoky smudgy eye look in the morning when you don’t remove your makeup! I always make sure that I moisturize my skin well, and my new favourite is to run and sweat it out. I find that it really purges the body of toxins that are clogging your pores.”
— as told to Aida Dolrahim at Nazneen’s home in Singapore on 6 Feb 2018